Mental invasion and control is something that keeps cropping up in my work. In “My Brother’s Keeper,” I took the medieval notion of demonic possession, which some “science” now tries to explain away as probable psychological disorders – I’m not sure I buy into that. What if there is such a thing as possession, but it’s a little more commonplace – at least for a visiting alien culture?
Here’s the blurb:
What would you be willing to do to save a soul from oblivion? Abduction? Possession? Murder?
A space traveler lands on a primitive planet, and contends with the backwards philosophy of some brown-robed brethren as he tries to rescue his own brother’s spirit. Does he succeed? Read “My Brother’s Keeper” to find out.
And here’s the excerpt:
The readout on my finder glowed bright blue against the night’s darkness; it indicated my brother Zagaar was somewhere on the rocky outcropping ahead. Whatever his spirit had transferred into, it was still latched on, holding itself back from oblivion. I might yet be able to return him to the collective.
The light from this planet’s waning moon highlighted one of the primitives’ structures near the top, this one larger than the others I had encountered.
Cross Hill Friary, came my host’s thoughts. So, he was familiar with this place – had a passion about it.
His body was annoyingly frail; I delved further into his thoughts as I made my slow way up the hill’s roughhewn path. The friary was a place of spiritual significance to them, where men who sought their god went for refuge.
I was winded by the time I arrived at the top, so I paused to catch my breath. The finder showed that my brother should be in the structure; I tucked it back into the folds of my host’s coarse brown robe, and as I did so, the door before me opened with a heavy creaking. What dim light there was inside spilled onto the path, and a man clothed much the same as I was stepped into the opening and peered down at me from the top of the steps.
“Brother Michael?” he asked. Apparently, my host was expected.
Do not harm him, daemon! Brother Michael shouted in our mind.
He attempted to wrest control from me, so that for a moment I was able to do little else than resist before I finally put him in his place.
I won’t need to harm anyone if you help me, I thought, and rested a hand on the crude weapon inside his robes for emphasis. Tell me who this is.
Brother Simon, he thought at last. I pressed him for more information on the friary and Brother Simon, which he gave grudgingly.
“Is everything alright?” Brother Simon asked.
“Yes, Brother Simon; I am just weary from the road,” I said, as I let my hand drop to my side.
“We had expected you sooner,” Brother Simon said, as he came down the steps. “I hope our summons wasn’t too great an imposition?”
He reached out to me and we clasped hands. His was a younger and more vital body than the one I controlled. I was tempted to transfer into it, but that would have freed my current host and given me away; that would not help me retrieve my brother.
“No imposition at all. I merely experienced a delay,” I said, recalling the precious time it had taken to waylay Brother Michael and secure my own body in my vessel. “I’m sorry if I caused you any undue concern.”
“These are strange and dangerous times,” he said, as he helped me up the stairs. “But you are here now, and that is what matters.”
We passed into the building, and he closed and secured the door behind us, then led me through the chapel, where a handful of monks sat silently. He paused and knelt where a long wooden box lay before the altar. I came alongside him and copied his actions, staring down at the body of a young, brown-robed man laid out in the box. Bruises were visible where his skin was exposed.
“Brother Timothy!” escaped from my lips in my host’s surprise; I sought to cover it with an awkward “Sorry, Brother.”
“It’s still quite a shock for us, too,” Brother Simon said. “We bury him tomorrow.”
As he rose, I snuck a look inside my robe at the finder – Brother Timothy’s spirit was here, but my brother’s was not.
That cannot be, my host thought. The soul leaves the body upon death.
See for yourself, I responded.
I placed my hand on Brother Timothy’s head and pushed my thoughts outward, Brother Timothy, are you in there?
My host was having none of it. Stop this foolishness now before…
Brother Michael – is that you? I can’t see you – it is so dark here.
I removed my hand and severed the connection.
What deviltry is this? asked my host. How can his soul still be there?
You think you know of the soul, but you cannot locate it, let alone relocate it, I thought to him.
I rose and rejoined Brother Simon where he waited by a side door, and he led me into the kitchen.
“Please have a seat,” he said, then looked in a pot that hung over the fire. “Good – there is still some stew.”
I sat as he fetched a bowl, ladled out some of the thick glop, and set the bowl in front of me. I did not hunger, but what I’d learned from my host told me it would be rude to say so. Brother Simon sat on the bench at the other side of the table watching quietly as I ate. I preferred he not do that, in case I revealed myself in some tell-tale deviation from the Brother Michael he knew.
“How did it happen?” I asked. “Brother Timothy, I mean.”
“For the same reason that we asked you to come,” he said, sadly. “Brother Isaiah.”
Killed by the daemon possessed, thought my host.
“Brother Isaiah killed him?” I asked.
“Not intentionally,” he said, shaking his head. “We were concerned about his behavior, all the unintelligible muttering he’d been doing since Brother Timothy first found him stumbling on the hill.
“After we sent for you, Brother Isaiah seemed to return to himself, so we allowed him to roam about freely, always with one or another of us following him about, lest he harm himself. Brother Andrew and Brother Timothy were in the garden with him this morning, the three of them gathering vegetables. Suddenly, Brother Isaiah threw down his basket and shouted ‘You cannot hold Zagaar here!’ and jumped the fence.”
Ah! Zagaar has taken refuge in one of the primitives, I thought. In his weakened state after the crash, it must have been a struggle for him to gain control. That ‘unintelligible muttering’ may have been our tongue.
Daemon heresies, my host grumbled.
“Fearing that he would reach the cliff and throw himself off, the brothers gave chase,” Brother Simon continued. “Young Brother Timothy first caught up with him at the cliff’s edge and tried to hold him back while he waited for help. In Brother Isaiah’s mania, he knocked Brother Timothy over the edge and made to follow.”
Trying for separation, I thought. Why? With no keeper he would be lost.
Why did Zagaar risk his soul? Will Vordan rescue his brother? Will Brother Michael free himself? So many questions. I had some fun with this one, especially in the exorcism scene that’s coming up – you really should give it a read. Just saying…
“My Brother’s Keeper” is a speculative fiction short story, and is available at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:
“My Brother’s Keeper” is also included in the collection Still Even More Things I Could Get OUT OF MY MIND:
Which is itself included in the mega-collection The Next Three ‘Things I Could Get OUT OF MY MIND’
Today is the release day for another Herc Tom story – “Reining Cats and Dogs.”
Empress Isabella continues to increase her hold on power with the help of her Slobberer allies. It’s up to our Champion of the Empire and his friends to do something about it.
“Reining Cats and Dogs” is a speculative fiction novelette, and is the seventh of the Herc Tom, Champion of the Empire stories, following “Purr Mission”, “Nipped in the Butt”, “Cat and Mouse”, “Baastards’ Revenge”, “Imperial Purrogative”, and “Cats Out of the Bag.” It’s available at a promotional price at several online retailers, including (but not limited to):
William Mangieri’s writing – including his previous release “Cats Out of the Bag” – can be found in many places, including:
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